Monday, February 11, 2013

Breathing Deep

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.  Don't resist them--that only creates sorrow.  Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."       --Lao Tzu
I woke up last Sunday morning in Carefree, Arizona, feeling like the name of the town suggests.  While everyone else at the wellness retreat I was attending slept, I journaled, writing down my positive thoughts about the workshop we had on Saturday, which was all about how a breathing practice can change one's physiology, creating balance in the heart and mind.  I went for a 40 minute contemplative walk taking deep breaths and snapping photos of the cacti, the jack rabbits and the golf course.  I was remembering my dad, who died three years ago to the day--but I didn't feel much sadness, just fond memories.  I felt peaceful and connected to the Universe. After my walk when I looked in the mirror, I noticed how calm and happy I felt.

Then I called Steve.  Steve was holding down the fort at home the best that he could, while grieving the unexpected death of Eric, one of his best friends, since Friday.  Spike, our 11 year old great dane mix, had been sick with a very high temperature a few days before I left; but she'd been treated by the vet and her condition was stabilized, so Steve and I thought it was okay for me to leave town.  

"Spike is lethargic again, and she wouldn't eat her dinner last night," Steve said.  I took several deep breaths, recalling an exercise from Saturday, to help me stay calm.  "You're going to need to take her temperature," I said.  (Steve had told me before I left that he wouldn't take Spike's rectal temperature-the thought of it grossed him out, or scared him, or something).  "You're going to have to take her temperature," I said, without emotion--(while feeling a freaked-out fearful anxiety welling up in my chest). 

Slowly and methodically, between deep breaths, I walked Steve through the process of how to take a rectal temperature: where to find our digital thermometer, how to turn it on, where to find the sanitary probe covers, and how to cover the thermometer tip, how to lubricate it, how to insert it, step by step, over the phone, while I sat in the arizona sun by the pool, acutely aware of my breathing.

Spike's temperature was 105.  I knew this was dangerously high, as we'd already been through this with the vet last week.  So, I coached Steve all day Sunday while he iced Spike down and covered her with wet, ice cold towels that he changed every 15 minutes.  I called Steve every half hour for a temperature update.   While Steve stayed by Spike's side, I worried from 1,700 miles away.  And I started thinking about the inevitable: Spike is going to die.  Just like my dad.  Just like Steve's friend Eric.  Just like we all will.  I went from bliss to grief in a matter of seconds and I kept breathing.  I felt raw, just like I felt from the moment my dad was diagnosed with cancer, until he died four months later.

Steve and Spike were both troopers.  Steve saw Spike through two hellish days until I came home.  And Spike could teach me a lot about grace and dignity (and breathing deep).  She has always been a regal girl.  She was calm and agreeable while Steve took her temps and kept the ice coming.  She gently responded as the veterinarians probed, ran tests, took shots and x-rays, and gave her an ice cold bath.   She apparently has some mysterious disease that is incurable, and the vet says that if we can keep her stable with steroids, "to consider it a win."   

Spike, in her younger days

Today, one week later, Spike is feeling somewhat like her old (younger) self--I know this because she wanted to hang out in the front yard this morning and while I was on the phone she managed to escape and she took Little Shortie with her!  Lily, our great pyrenees,  came to the door to let me know her friends had gone AWOL.  I felt my panic rising, as I searched for the two of them and I went to the worse-case scenario in my mind.  I was breathing deeply when I spotted Spike and Shortie in our back yard (somehow they'd wiggled through a hole in the fence), visiting with a neighbor's pitbull (who had jumped his own fence and was in our backyard too).  Spike was enjoying the moment.  I went from panic to gratitude in a split second.  Breathing Deep. 

1 comment:

  1. Breathing in, I calm my body.
    Breathing out, I smile.
    Dwelling in the present moment
    I know this is a wonderful moment.

    (Thich Nhat Hanh)



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